New "Power On" Pilot Project Launched to Help Families in Need
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today the county is teaming with local utilities Madison Gas & Electric and Alliant Energy along with Energy Services Inc. for a new pilot project to help families facing severe challenges paying their heating bills. The first-of-its-kind "Power On" initiative aims to help those with the greatest difficulties keeping up with heating costs who regularly face the prospect of being disconnected.
"Power On is a bold, new approach to addressing a problem that's really worsening in our community as the economy sours," Falk said. “The combination of another nasty Wisconsin winter and an economic crisis of the kind we haven’t seen in decades is causing more families to fall behind. The need is so great out there and we don’t want anyone left in the cold,” Falk said.
Dane County families at greatest risk of disconnection will be part of the "Power On" pilot project. Families taking part will learn about ways to become more energy efficient and better manage their household budgets while receiving energy assistance. County Joining Forces for Families workers will also work with the families one-on-one to make sure they have chances to succeed in the program.
Falk noted that in just the past two months more than 4400 Dane County households received energy assistance totaling $1.69 million. For the entire year before, 8000 households got heating help, meaning demand for assistance has more than doubled.
"Heating is a basic necessity that's become an unaffordable luxury for thousands of fixed income elderly, disabled and working families struggling to survive the bitter cold," Tim Bruer, director of Energy Services Inc. said.
County staff and the utilities worked together in recent weeks to help make sure the heat stays on for dozens of homes with families behind on their heating bills. Those households are identified from lists provided by MG&E and Alliant. Joining Forces for Families staff visited nearly 200 homes to better assess needs on a case by case basis and connect families with emergency assistance.
Falk noted that county staff has noted cases of people going to extreme measures to keep their homes warm. One of the cases included a person who brought wood pallets home from work to burn for heat. Other people have been found using stoves and ovens.
"Alliant Energy always wants to help its customers find a way to stay comfortable in their home, keep the heat on and keep their families safe," said Julie Bauer, Director of Customer Service for Alliant Energy. "It's important that people know they don't have to wait until they are behind on their utility bills to receive energy assistance. Help is available now, just call us and we will do whatever we can to help our customers."
"MGE has a staff dedicated to helping customers find the resources they need to keep their homes warm and safe," said Geraldo Paz, MGE Senior Customer Advisor.
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